In our industry, it’s often said that anyone can make a podcast… but not everyone should.
So when your organization has invested time and resources into a really good podcast, you want to give it every advantage to succeed from the start.
These tips came from Joni Deutsch, on-demand content and audience engagement producer at WFAE, and Maggie Taylor, director of marketing at PRX and Radiotopia as part of the PMDMC 2018 session “From Launch to Orbit, Working Across Departments to Get Ears on Your Podcast.”
Identify your audience.
Knowing whom you're talking to is the first, most essential step toward being able to connect with those people. NPR offers storytelling training tools to help you identify whom you're trying to reach. Knowing your audience will affect which marketing tactics you choose to use.
Gather your team early.
Connect the podcast producers with marketing, corporate support, and major giving, so these teams can begin to think through strategies to amplify the content in the ways they know best. Podcasts are still the “wild west” of programming, so don’t assume everyone on your team understands how the launch works, or even knows what a podcast is. If you need to find a podcast guru to talk to your team about what a successful launch could look like, do so! Capturing the imagination of your launch team is essential.
Continue to meet with your team of stakeholders weekly or biweekly in advance of launch.
Timing is important.
Give yourself at least six months - even eight months to a year - to plan a podcast launch. Consider the timing of your launch relative to other events that may boost your launch:
Launching around a membership drive provides opportunities for on-air mentions about your new podcast.
A live event during your launch allows you to get on stage to promote your new content.
A launch before certain vacation days may mean the audience has more free time to listen.
Have the brand conversation.
Invest in the design of your podcast logo. You want it to have a big impact, but also look great when rendered small. Test various designs in different sizes and forms to make sure you’re landing on something great.
Here’s the time to say: You may want to consider relaxing your umbrella brand guidelines for podcasts. The podcast audience is distinct from the public media audience. Podcasts aren't bound by geography and audiences will discover your content in part based on its visual presentation alongside hundreds of thousands of other podcasts in a podcatcher. You could use a logo watermark to unify the podcasts of your organization, perhaps using white treatment so logo colors don’t clash with the podcast design. But the bottom line is that podcast logos that are cluttered or poorly designed may generate less interest in the content.
Create a podcast landing page.
A prominent subscribe button high above the fold
All episodes (as they’re released) including their descriptions
Bonus and behind-the-scenes content
An invitation to subscribe to your newsletter
Drive people from the podcast to your landing page. If your station website is a little clunky or older-looking, consider using whatever tools you can to create a sharper, fresher (and - without question - mobile-friendly) landing page for the podcast. Podcast audiences are often digital-first audiences accustomed to fresh, contemporary visual design and functionality.
Build up your audience in advance.
Use the lead-up time before the first episode drops to build your audience. Establish your feed two weeks out with a podcast trailer using Apple tags so people can start subscribing before your first episode is available. If you have more than one podcast, insert your trailer into your other streams.
Pick one or two like-minded podcasts produced by other organizations and reach out to request a promo-for-promo. Ask ifthey will promote your podcast in some of their episodes while you promote theirs in yours. This gives you the opportunity to reach an interested audience of thousands or more.
Be strategic about which press you approach to publicize your podcast. There are reporters who cover podcasts generally, and you can also check out the press pages of like-minded podcasts. Mine the articles featured and approach those writers about your launch.
Often press will want to listen to multiple episodes before they’ll consider writing anything. So if you can release preview versions of more than one episode, it will serve your publicity better.
If you do get some press in response to one or two episodes, use that coverage to aim higher. Don’t be afraid to shoot for a news outlet that seems unattainable.
Approach major donors.
Give interested major donors the VIP treatment by emailing them in advance of the launch to say, “I thought you might enjoy this podcast we’re launching soon. Here’s a preview. If you like it I’ll send you more episodes when they’re released.”
Create a podcast newsletter.
Use your podcast episodes and your landing page to invite people to subscribe to your newsletter. Use the newsletter to feature content that isn’t available anywhere else.
Consider also including blurbs about the podcast in existing station newsletters. Even once the podcast has launched, include small blurbs to remind people it’s still there.
Use Google AdWords.
As a nonprofit organization, you can apply for Google grants that allow you to use Google AdWords for free. Create attention-grabbing ads that link back to your landing page with its prominent subscribe button.
Use social media.
Create shareable videos to embed in your social media channels. (You can do this for free using Headliner, for example). Consider a social media takeover at the time of launch where the cover photos on your social channels temporarily display your podcast logo with tagline and launch date.
Encourage staff, board members, and volunteers to share your trailer on social media.